Roberto Mancini confessed to a feeling of injustice having seen his hopes of a second Wembley final dashed by the man he discarded. A goal from Craig Bellamy, whom Mancini had forced out of Manchester City, ensured Liverpool would face Cardiff City – where Bellamy spent last season on loan – in the Carling Cup final.
However, the Manchester City manager was furious at the decision by referee Phil Dowd to award Liverpool a penalty after Nigel de Jong had given his side the lead. The game ended 2-2 on the night with Liverpool 3-2 aggregate winners. Mancini argued that Daniel Agger's shot deflected from the tip of Micah Richards' boot on to his hand as the defender slid in to block. Moreover, he was convinced that Charlie Adam's foul on Edin Dzeko should have been punished with a penalty.
"We did a good performance and we made some mistakes; a team like us should not concede a goal like we did for the second," he said. "But their first goal was not a penalty and we should have had a penalty ourselves. I do feel a sense of injustice.
"In the last two months we have been very unlucky with referees. It was no penalty because the ball touched his leg before his hands. I don't know how it is possible to concede a penalty like this and not get a penalty for the foul on Dzeko. I haven't spoken to the referee. It is impossible to speak to him and I am tired of it after so many games.
"It doesn't make it more difficult for me that Craig scored the winner. I am happy for Craig, what do you want me to say? Of course I am disappointed we have not made the final but what difference does it make if Bellamy scores, or Gerrard or Carragher? I said hello to him before the game so there was no need to wish him luck afterwards."
City are now out of both domestic cup competitions to add to their elimination from the Champions League. Nevertheless, their title credentials came through a rigid examination by Tottenham on Sunday and Mancini argued that they would not be derailed by the loss of a second League Cup semi-final in three years.
Referring to the decision to ban Mario Balotelli for four matches on video evidence, a decision the club accepted last night, Mancini joked that he trusted the result would be overturned in the morning.
"I have accepted the ban because I couldn't prove my innocence," Balotelli said of the punishment for his alleged stamp on Tottenham's Scott Parker, adding that any contact was unintentional. "But I am not a villain or violent." City reasoned that any appeal would risk having the 21-year-old's ban extended on the grounds it was "frivolous".
For Liverpool, there was nothing frivolous about a night that saw them remain on course for a record eighth League Cup. There are echoes of last year's final that climaxed with Arsenal coming badly unstuck against Birmingham, although Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard argued that they would not be repeating the Gunners' errors.
"I think Arsenal underestimated Birmingham last year," he said. "So we need to show Cardiff respect. If we show up like we did tonight, I am sure we can pick up a trophy. Craig Bellamy was the difference tonight. His pace is always a threat and when a chance falls to him we know he can finish it."